Anybody that passes it is struck by the neon glow. It’s either that or the massive, illuminated, black and white sign against the aged teal siding. It looks like a regular house. While people have seen shadowy figures in the attic windows long after close, it doesn’t stop them from cramming into every last space for an evening of improvisational comedic spectacle.
The main floor is loud with modern music, clattering ceramic cups, blasts of laughter from younger conversations. Conversations splattered with swearing that would make more sense coming from a wind-up infant, in a backseat safety restraint, that just witnessed their parents’ unfavorable reaction to a rule violation or a traffic anomaly. Like percussion in avant-garde composition, it pops out of place to the amusement or displeasure of any witness. A few befuddled looks, raised eyebrows and unwilling yet eavesdropped chortles spark self awareness and the young table quiets before shuffling out, eager to beat curfew and curb favor from their wealthy, foul-breathing elders.
Older patrons drinking whiskey softly laugh and debate. Regular visitors join their stewards behind the bar for small servings of mixed pockets of alcohol before being expelled from the unspoken boundary. Quiet students with annoyed scowls bury their faces into iridescent screens. The benefits of their higher education will no doubt be them learning to avoid studying in busy places with frequent social gatherings. They gather their papers and expensive technology while beating a hasty evacuative path.
Young couples failing to disprove Einstein’s theory of relativity stretch their love’s tolerance with the disdain for the coming day’s responsibilities. They leave shortly after, grasping to each others essence before being captured by the departing moment of affection, giggling under the forming cloud drizzle that will eventually envelop the remaining hours of the day.
I return for the parade- An almost never ending procession of characters, kooks and inebriated performers departing from the second level of the locale. An event space for neighborhood shows and open source performances. By its very definition or by default, it harbors the feeling of locals only.
Bohemian hippies, tattered stoners, punk drunks, foreign expatriates and folksy elders meander through the back of the house, wobbling over each other and spilling into the rainy exterior. Together they form a barrier, protected from evil and intolerance, their weapons of sly searing quips and thick unique tobacco smoke protecting them from any interference or displeasure. I depart with handshakes and embraced salutations before making my own way of egress.
It’s almost one am on a Thursday night.
I’ve found my way back to the 24 hour diner connected to the bowling alley.
It’s late so there’s an older gentleman and besides him it’s just the people who run the place. My seat at the bar is right in front of the assembly station in the cook line. The orange glow of the rolling toaster keeps a relaxing tempo and beams a dull warmth in my general direction. Its paint is chipping off.
Most of the hardware is worn to a beaten down dull grey. The kitchen surface is riddled with dents, yet it’s all clean. The potato pot sits on a burner whose blue orange flicker matches the toaster’s tempo.
Its scorched and warped bottom edge reminiscent of a gas valve left wide open and a new cook’s attention not left open enough. The ivory platters and mounted set of bovine horns rest on high, basking in the warm glow that bathes the restaurant amidst a cold, raining evening’s backdrop. There are people out tonight starving somewhere cold and damp, and I’m not one of them. I’m lucky, sure, but I’m not without sin nor hardship. I feel so inclined to relish in that.
The waitress is on tempo with the place too, her metronomic passing almost hypnotic while completing her rounds over smooth surfaces and collecting the dirty platters, shuffling them off into a basin for the dishwasher to collect and blast with searing hot clutched molecules of hydrogen and oxygen. A few old arches line the place’s backsplash, bouquets of pink flowers nestled in solid colored tea pots. I order my usual, a grilled cheese with pickles and a perfect scrambled egg with some glorious bacon. Usually it comes with golden cheese-welded potatoes and a lemon/lime soda.
Twenty minutes later, I’m stuffed to the gills and praying I don’t pass out and fall out of my chair from the blood redistribution to my body’s digestive process.
Warm, fulfilling digestive purposes.
Delirium setting is a pretty good sign that it’s time to go home. I shuffle off and clunk into my rusty early millenium Buick sedan.
It’s just another day in paradise.